18 Africans migrants killed while crossing into Spain's Melilla
Several African migrants were killed in what has been dubbed a “stampede” by Moroccan authorities, leaving scores of migrants injured.
Several African migrants were killed in what has been dubbed a “stampede” by Moroccan authorities, leaving scores of migrants injured. 18 Africans were killed as thousands tried to cross Morocco’s border fence toward the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla on Friday.
From the Moroccan city of Nador towards Melilla, 133 migrants breached the border in the first such mass crossing since the diplomatic relationships between the two countries since they mended diplomatic relations last month.
A spokesperson for the Spanish government stated from the Melilla office that approximately 2,000 people attempted the crossing from Morocco, but the Spanish Civil Guard police and the Moroccan forces were able to stop hundreds from either side of the border fence.
Casualties, according to Morocco’s Interior Ministry, were a result of people attempting to climb the iron fence. Initially, 5 migrants were killed and 76 were injured, with 140 Moroccan security officers injured. Morocco’s news agency MAP later reported that 13 of the injured migrants later died in the hospital, increasing the death toll to 18.
The Moroccan Human Rights Association, on the other hand, reported that 27 migrants died but the number could not be immediately confirmed.
On the Spanish side, officials stated that 49 Civil Guards have suffered from minor injuries while four police vehicles have been damaged as a result of stone-throwing across the border fence.
As for the migrants that succeeded to make the crossing into Melilla, they resorted to local migrant centers where authorities would evaluate their circumstances. This is not the first time such an incident happens.
People escaping poverty and violence have always looked for a way to cross into a better life. In Morocco, it is common that people to seek to cross into the two Spanish North African cities Melilla and Ceuta as a springboard to continental Europe. Typically it is the Moroccan border control agents that contain migrant crossing attempts.
Moroccan border crossing
Earlier in March, at least 3,500 people attempted to overcome the 6-meter barrier that surrounds Melilla. About 1,000 people were able to make it across the border as reported by the Spanish authorities.
Friday’s crossing attempt was the first since diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco were mended. The two countries were in a dispute for over a year as a result of Morocco’s firm position that Western Sahara is an integral part of the Kingdom in the face of imperial Spain, which considers the Sahara one of its colonies.
Over two days at the beginning of March, more than 3,500 people tried to scale the six-meter (20-foot) barrier that surrounds Melilla and nearly 1,000 made it across, according to Spanish authorities.
Friday's crossings were the first attempt since relations between Spain and Morocco improved in March after a year-long dispute centered on Western Sahara. Last year, the borders became hostage to a significant dispute when Madrid allowed the treatment of the leader of a Western Saharan independence movement in a Spanish hospital for Covid-19.
A few days later, a sudden influx of 8000 migrants of all ages, including about 1,500 minors, and even entire families, poured into Spain, swimming from Morocco using inflatable boats and dinghies around the borders fences or walking across at low tide into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Africa, which became along with Melilla enclave magnets for African migrants.
Morocco loosened its controls around Ceuta last year, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain. The move was viewed as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement to be treated for COVID-19 at a Spanish hospital.
Tensions between the two countries began to thaw earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to Western Sahara, where activists are seeking full independence.